Chapter Four
October, 1999

Have we been here so long already? Just yesterday, these hills were dressed all in greens. . .

This is my first real Autumn. Evergreens don't do Fall the way the trees do here, and Santa Barbara just doesn't do Fall at all. As a media junkie, I've seen plenty of portrayals of the season, but nothing prepared me for the intensity and wonder of the real thing.

I must go explore: there is this new thing here outside my door to play in, to see and hear and taste and touch. The scent is spicier during the day, the touch crispier at night. Colors change in different lights, appearing still different again if you look at them through the steam of your breath. When we walk the path along the Ahr in the hours between midnight and dawn, if we are quiet, we can hear the leaves still on the trees speak to each other the promise of Winter: cold, grey, wet.

We've been overgrown children in an immense playground. We've gathered arrangements of leaves, each one a different shape and a different color. We've watched the wind blow the leaves around in some complicated ballet, each one competing for the best places in the spotlight of a streetlamp. We've smashed them between our hands to smell the sweet, dry scent before the wind swept it away. We've kicked through piles of leaves, we've tucked them behind our ears and we've dumped them over each other's heads.

In afternoon sunlight, the colors gain an otherworldly intensity, like the trees have found God and plugged in. It's not just the trees, either; even the hedges and the blackberry brambles have gotten involved, so the view from the top of the hills outside town is a crazy quilt draped over the valley, as if someone were tucking it in before the cold of winter arrives.

The leaves are almost all on the ground now. They line the gutters of the roads and edges of the paths along the Ahr. The wind blows them around your feet when you walk, and they crunch when you step on them. After the rain, they plaster themselves to the toes of your shoes, perfect golden leaves over black boots.

Chapter Five

Ian Gilman / Germany Journal
DolciDeleria / Germany Journal
Copyright 1998-2013, Ian Gilman & Christina Willott